Saudi-US dialogue seeks to counter Iran threat
A few weeks before the US presidential election contest between Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden, which will determine the country’s future foreign policy direction, the first sessions of the US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue took place. Last week’s sessions attested to the depth and importance of the relations between the two nations.
Normally, Saudi-US ties are not affected by the results of American elections, but making this visit at such an important time is a reminder of the role that the Kingdom plays with regard to US foreign policy. There is no doubt that today’s American voter will be aware of this visit and the media will write about it, discussing and analyzing its content. American decision-makers, in addition to politicians and those interested in this field, will not miss the follow-up to this dialogue, its output and its effects on the US’ decisions.
We saw the emphasis of the two countries’ senior ministers — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan — in the joint press conference held in Washington last Wednesday. The press conference occurred after the strategic dialogue began. It dealt with the importance of the relations between Saudi Arabia and the US, which began 75 years ago with King Abdul Aziz and President Franklin Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy in the Red Sea. Both men recognized the importance of strengthening bilateral relations to support regional and global peace and stability, as well as expanding cooperation between the two countries in all areas.
There is no doubt that US-Saudi bilateral cooperation takes place on several levels, including security, economics, and military. Thus, we saw the confirmation of both sides’ mutual commitment to confronting whatever threatens the region’s security. Threats destabilize the situation and target the security interests of the two countries. They are aware of Iran’s malign activities, as well as its development of a nuclear program and ballistic missiles. Both of these constitute a critical threat to the security and prosperity of the region and also to the security and interests of the US. In fact, the danger extends to the terrorist groups and militias that follow Tehran, and which Tehran has never been hesitant to help. It always supplies them with weapons, especially the Houthi militia, which was the first to possess ballistic missiles — most of them Iranian-made — and also drones that Iran uses to carry out its criminal acts through its agents in the region.
The importance of the dialogue was seen as it also coincided with the US’ maximum pressure campaign on Iran. The purpose of this campaign is to isolate Tehran economically and force it to change its behavior. It includes the imposition of sanctions on 18 Iranian banks, as well as on a number of officials and entities involved in the Iranian nuclear program.
The world must not forget the attacks and acts of sabotage carried out by Tehran in the region and around the world, especially the terrorist attacks on Saudi oil facilities last year, which negatively affected the global oil markets. There have also been warnings about the Safer oil tanker that has been stalled in the Red Sea since 2014. The Houthis have refused to allow UN experts to inspect the ship, which threatens an environmental disaster on the Yemeni coast, affecting all marine life in the region. It is important to discuss this urgent matter, find ways to prevent a catastrophe, and hold Tehran accountable.
Iran’s militias have carried out heinous acts, and thus it is not strange for the US to support the leadership role the Kingdom is playing in the region in order to confront and deter Iran’s destabilizing behavior. Iran continues to provide financial and logistical support to terrorist groups in Yemen, which has led to the Kingdom being targeted with more than 300 ballistic missiles and hundreds of drones. US-Saudi cooperation in curbing Iranian terrorism has saved the world from Tehran’s barbarism. The great danger is that Iran is the principal country that supports and funds terrorism all over the world, and it is a source of terrorism in thought and preparation.
The Iranian militias’ presence in and exploitation of several countries comes at the expense of the security and safety of the people in those countries. The Yemeni crisis is one example that must be resolved in order to end the bloodshed of the Yemeni people, who suffer daily from the hijacking of their state by the Houthis. This requires finding a political solution to end the deteriorating humanitarian situation there.
We saw the confirmation of both sides’ mutual commitment to confronting whatever threatens the region’s security.
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri
The convergence of Saudi and US views on Iran is a source of comfort, especially since Riyadh and Washington are among those who refuse to lift the arms embargo on Tehran. Unfortunately, there are many other countries whose willingness to lift the arms embargo is foolish because that will unleash Iran, enabling it to expand its terrorism by importing more weapons. Tehran also talks about its attempts to sell the weapons it manufactures. Despite the presence of sanctions, Tehran will find a way to supply its militias in an overt manner, selling them arms and transferring expertise. This is what the US-Saudi cooperation aims to strike in particular. Washington and Riyadh have decades of experience in facing malicious projects and they have succeeded in curbing projects that are larger than Tehran’s — even the former Soviet project, particularly in the Middle East, as well as in regard to the oil market.
A constructive and fruitful deal between countries such as the US and Saudi Arabia would guarantee security and stability and frustrate the projects that Iran and its allies follow in order to achieve their goals. Iran will use its militias to inflict damage on both the US and its allies, such as Saudi Arabia, so cooperation and strength are needed at all levels. What is required is for the countries that seek peace and fight terrorism, such as Saudi Arabia and the US, to thwart all these projects and thwart everyone who seeks to make use of Iran’s brand of terrorism.
- Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar. Twitter: @drhamsher7